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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  December 2, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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you can see her personalty in her eyes. podi you can see it in her smile. she is drop dead beautiful. >> she worked so hard for so many years. it was time to go to the beach. >> they said that she was missing at sea. all that mattered to me wahow do we find her? >> his girlfriend, gone. last seen with a man who said they'd been snorkeling. >> they did not go snorkeling. this is not robyn. >> like another beautiful blond, she vanished in aruba. >> robyn gardner is not natalee
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holloway. >> a tragedy and a mystery. was it also a murder? her companion says no. >> the signal going in, that's the last time i saw her. >> the only suspect, freed from prison. and tonight for the first time in primetime talking to "dateline." when you say you're looking for help, you don't look frantic. you don't look concerned. >> i would not have been arrested if i didn't have that assurance. i would never -- see my kids again. >> josh mankiewicz with "missing in paradise." good evening, and welcome to "dateline." i'm lester holt. she's been missing for months now, a vibrant young woman who vanished on a trip to aruba. it's a case that recalls another mystery. that of natalee holloway, the american teenager who disappeared on the same island. and now the suspect in the robyn gardner case has been released from an aruban prison. tonight he speaks out with details you haven't heard before
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in his most in depth interview yet. here's josh mankiewicz. ♪ >> white sand. turquoise waters. hot music. and cold drinks. aruba is the perfect place for a getaway. it was just the tonic robyn gardner felt she needed when she came here in july. instead, her vacation morphed into a mystery. robyn is missing, presumed dead. was she the victim of vicious ocean currents? or of a vicious person? tonight, the prime suspect in the disappearance of robyn gardner is out of prison. back in the u.s. and talking to "dateline." you're being widely portrayed
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and regarded as someone who literally got away with murder. >> i am well aware of that. >> reporter: what do you want people to know about you? >> i want people to know i had nothing to do with anything to harm her. >> reporter: after 116 days in an aruban prison, gary giordano is ready to give his side of the story we're about to examine. he has plenty more to say about what happened, what he did, what he didn't do, and about robyn, the woman at the center of the mystery. her family and friends are waiting for answers. robyn's boyfriend says his heart is broken. >> it's shattered. yeah, it's shattered. >> reporter: blond, beautiful, and with cheetah-like spots inked on her shoulder, 35-year-old robyn gardner was a head-turner wherever she went. her bff, christina jones. >> she's a cool chick, you know?
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and really funny and a bit of a free spirit. >> reporter: a free spirit, yes, but she also had a steady boyfriend of two years, richard forester, who was completely smitten with robyn. >> i knew the second i laid eyes on her, i knew that she was for me. >> reporter: more than two years ago, richard connected with robyn through both were divorced. both worked in bethesda, maryland, just outside washington, d.c. richard worked as a head hunter, robinyn as a dental assistant. they settled into a steady relationship. robyn staying at richard's house most nights. >> we both worked in downtown bethesda. every morning we'd ride into work together. >> reporter: robyn liked nice restaurants and good wines and she was no shrinking violet. >> she had a little bit of a wild side. yeah, she did. and i loved that about her. and she has a tattoo on her right rib cage that's a latin phrase, and the translation was,
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if i can't move the earth, then i'll raise hell. >> reporter: she tried modeling but never pursued it seriously. >> she likes attention and she likes to be seen. >> reporter: she did receive plenty of attention. her long blond hair enhanced with thousands of dollars of hair extensions put in at the salon owned by her friend christina. >> she's a super blond and always had to have her color refreshed every two weeks and new extensions every six months, and so with that came the beginning of a great friendship. >> reporter: the sign in the salon says it all. if these walls could talk. and talk, these girls did. they shared secrets and eventually became roommates. early last summer robyn lost her job at the dental office and was at something of a crossroads in life. trying to decide what to do next, robyn took the path of least resistance and decided to
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go on vacation. robyn's boyfriend says he had trouble getting through to her on her cell phone after she left on a four-day vacation. he says she told him that she was going to visit her parents in florida but that he was surprised that first night when he got an e-mail from robyn saying there'd been a last-minute change in plans. later that night, she sent him a message on facebook. >> saying family surprised us with a trip, we're in aruba. i thought, wow, that's fantastic fantastic. >> reporter: but the next day brought another posting from robyn and this message was quite different. >> at 2:05 in the morning tuesday morning is when i got the message saying this sucks. >> reporter: richard didn't get an answer until tuesday afternoon. >> she responded, i got your messages. i love you. i care about you. we'll sort it all out when i get back. >> reporter: and that was the last message from robyn.
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>> i woke up on friday morning out of my mind scared. and through facebook i sent her brother a message. >> reporter: robyn's brother called back with disturbing news. >> he said the aruban authorities contacted our family and said that she was missing at sea. coming up, devastating news. but to robyn's best friend, also puzzling. >> there's no way that she would get into the ocean after spending a couple grand on her hair. >> reporter: when "missing in paradise" continues. last throw, prince. and last chance at medicare open enrollment, too. what do you mean? it ends december 7th. if you haven't reviewed your
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>> reporter: 48 hours after she arrived in aruba, robyn gardner's getaway vacation had spiraled into a disaster. back in maryland, her boyfriend, richard forester, was frantic after losing contact with robyn for two days. finally her brother called saying she was missing at sea. and with that came another piece of news, as hurtful as it was stunning. >> he said that she was down in aruba with her friend, gary. >> reporter: robyn had lied to him. she wasn't in aruba with her family, she was there with another man, gary giordano. robyn had told richard about gary before. but she had also told him that
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gary was not interested in women. >> she'd mentioned that he was a gay friend. all that mattered to me was, okay, what's going on and how do we find her? >> reporter: that's what the aruban police wanted to know. and gary giordano gave investigators his version of what happened on the day robyn disappeared. he said they drove from their hotel to an area called baby beach where they stopped at this restaurant. it's a story backed up by security video. here are gary and robyn arriving around 3:00 and then leaving about an hour later. gary then took investigators to an isolated spot nearby called mankey beach where gary said he and robyn went snorkeling. robyn, he said, cut her foot on a sharp rock just before they went in. police say giordano told them the water was rough and at some point he felt he was being pulled out to sea. he swam back thinking robyn was right behind him, but when he got close to shore he turned and
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she was gone. by now it was after 6:00 p.m. security video at the restaurant, now closed for the day, shows gary returning, apparently to look for help. police put boats and divers in the water. there was no trace of robyn. and so questions quickly arose. was this an accidental drowning? or was it something else? >> they did not go snorkeling. you know, this is not robyn. >> reporter: her roommate and hairdresser christina jones doubted that robyn, who spent so much money or hair color and extensions would ever go snorkeling. >> there's no way that she would get into the ocean, you know, after spending a couple grand on her hair. >> reporter: quickly aruban police found inconsistencies in the story gary giordano was
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telling them. solicitor general --. mr. giordano says he was snorkeling with ms. gardner and that the water was rough. >> that's what he told us, indeed, but it was a very calm day. there was no currents, no waves, nothing like that. >> reporter: police concluded that giordano's story was at the very least highly suspicious and in aruba, which is part of the netherlands, police can hold you just on suspicion. but giordano wasn't in custody. so police went looking for him. >> when he became a suspect and we decided to arrest him he was already in the airport. >> reporter: gary had gone to the airport and changed his ticket to take an earlier flight back to the u.s. according to police, the ticket agent asked him where his traveling companion, robyn, was. >> he claimed that she took a later flight. which is of course, odd. >> reporter: but that was not the only suspicious thing gary giordano did. police discovered gary had taken
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out an insurance policy on robyn gardner. a policy that would pay $1.5 million in the event of her accidental death. and the policy's beneficiary? gary giordano himself. and just two days after robyn went missing and before he tried to leave aruba, gary inquired about how to claim the insurance payout. >> is it normal to insure somebody's life and make yourself the beneficiary? or do you make the relatives the beneficiary? >> reporter: so police arrested gary giordano at the airport just as he was about to fly home to maryland. an aruban judge ordered gary held in custody while police investigated further. >> gary, over here! >> where's robyn? >> reporter: he was now a suspect in a murder investigation. aruban police also asked the fbi for help. and agents searched giordano's home looking for evidence.
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so who was gary giordano? he was a successful businessman running his own job placement agency and living in a $1.2 million home in suburban maryland. and gary, as it turned out, was not gay. the 50-year-old divorced father of three met robyn through an online dating website. they'd been seeing each other casually for more than a year and robyn had chosen not to tell her boyfriend. >> she told me her and gary were not intimate. he might have waesled his way into her life but not into her heart. >> reporter: while investigators were looking further into the story gary giordano was telling, back in the united states the fbi was looking into his background. court records in the state of maryland shed some light on giordano's life. back in 2003, gary giordano and his first wife went through a nasty divorce, trading allegations of abuse in court papers. after becoming single, he ended
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up with orders of protection against him from two different women. the picture that seemed to be emerging from some of those who had dated gary giordano was that he was capable of being charming one moment, a monster the next. that's certainly what christina says robyn told her. >> he was aggressive sometimes and verbally abusive. >> reporter: case in point, just months before the aruba trip, gary invited robyn to go on a cruise. she initially agreed but then canceled when her boyfriend objected. christina says robyn showed her some text messages gary had supposedly sent after robyn bailed. >> he said that he was going to ruin her life, he said he was going to get ahold of richard, he, you know, was going to let everyone know who a whore she was. >> reporter: but three months later robyn agreed to go to aruba with gary. >> and she just was like, look,
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i can handle it. you know? i'm going away. >> reporter: going away never to be seen again. so what could have happened to robyn gardner? "dateline's" unsolved case squad, a team of veteran investigators, went to aruba, to the very places where robyn gardner spent her last moments looking for answers to the strange disappearance of the woman with the golden hair. coming up -- >> this was nothing, nothing like what i pictured. >> "dateline's" investigators hit the beach in aruba. and later, tough questions for the prime suspect in robyn's disappearance. why is it the police couldn't find a single witness who saw you in the water with robyn gardner? [ horn honks ] [ gps ] hello dave. oh, not again. [ gps ] dave, do you kt week? she went to jared to look at a beautiful diamond necklace. i'm not going to the cleaners anymore,
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>> reporter: in the days and weeks after robyn gardner vanished here in aruba, the only things that surfaced were rumors and suspicion. no sign of her or her body. and robyn's travel companion turned suspect in her disappearance, gary giordano, was held on suspicion of her murder in the island's only prison. a beautiful blond, missing in aruba. robyn gardner's disappearance set off headlines across the country and around the world. and for many it brought back memories of a similar episode six years earlier when another
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american disappeared on this same island. her name in case you don't remember was natalee holloway. natalee was 18 on her senior class trip from alabama in 2005 when she disappeared. her body was never found. a local named joran van der sloot, the last person seen with natalee, was twice arrested but never charged. >> gary, over here. >> reporter: so what was the evidence investigators in aruba felt warranted the arrest of gary giordano? there was that $1.5 million insurance policy gary had taken out on robyn gardner's life. there was his attempt to leave aruba earlier than scheduled. his troubled past with women. and this. investigators had gone to the trouble of staging an elaborate re-enactment of robyn's last hours, complete with actors, with gary's statements to police as the script.
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investigators just didn't buy it. mr. giordano's story may be in certain places difficult to believe, but it's not impossible. >> no, it's not impossible. but what we do know is that he lies about a number of things. he lies about the surf. he lies about the current. he lies about the winds. so there is a lot going against him. >> reporter: two months after robyn was last seen, two members of "dateline's" unsolved case squad went to aruba to check out gary giordano's story. nbc news consultants duane stanton, retired homicide detective from washington, d.c., investigated chandra levy's murder. and yolanda mcclairy, crime scene investigator in las vegas and a model for the character on the hit series "csi." >> so we're heading out of the marriott -- >> reporter: our team retraced the couple's route starting at the marriott where gary and robyn stayed on beautiful palm beach.
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and then they drove south on the island toward baby beach, the area where robyn was last seen. driving past mile after mile of beautiful beaches, our investigators wondered why robyn and gary, who only planned to be in aruba for three full days, would drive all this distance to go to a beach. >> that sure seemed like a long time to get here. >> more than 18 miles and it took approximately an hour. >> reporter: next stop? rum reef, th batchsidebar where robyn and gary had lunch and the last place robyn was seen alive. our team had watched the security video showing the couple arriving the afternoon of august 2nd at 3:07 p.m. then, almost an hour later, gary going out to the rental car, putting something into a blue cup. that brief trip to the car got the attention of our investigators. >> what was in that cup? as an investigator, you want to look and see if a foreign object
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was maybe introduced to her system, a narcotic, a drug. that's a possibility. >> reporter: from rum reef our team followed the trail gary told police he followed to take robyn snorkeling. he said they went not to popular baby beach, which was only steps away, but to this much more remote and rocky spot called mankey beach. our investigators were struck by the spot when they saw it. >> i mean, this -- this was nothing, nothing like what i pictured. >> if i'd come to this location, i want to be alone. we're back here right now by ourselves, i could accost you, i could take you and go into the water, you could scream. >> no one would hear me. >> no one would hear you. and just looking around --. >> reporter: our team also looked closely at gary's statement to police. he said that while snorkeling the waters got rough. that he tapped on robyn's leg to signal they should return to shore. while swimming back, gary said he hit a rock and was busy
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saving his own life. and when he got back to shore, he says, robyn was nowhere to be found. and our team was puzzled by what gary giordano did after he said robyn didn't come out of the water. they'd seen that security video time stamped at 6:16 p.m. it shows giordano returning to the bar, he says, to try to find help. our team wondered why isn't he moving faster? and why doesn't he look more worried? >> from an investigative perspective, i have huge problems with his lack of urgency here. >> reporter: finally, our team asked if no one saw either robyn or gary in the water, is it possible that before gary reported her missing at 6:16 p.m. he could have killed her and moved her body to another location on the island during the two hours in which he's
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unaccounted for? aruban authorities have mobilized search teams and cadaver dogs to search the acres of cactus and brush within several miles of the beach trying to answer exactly those questions. >> think about it. if you're trying to dispose of a body, again, what better place would there be to come than a place just like this? >> it could literally be here forever until somebody happens to come across it. >> exactly. >> reporter: you've been here a few days, have you drawn any conclusions? >> a few. one is i don't believe she's in the water. i think she's very well hidden somewhere on this island. >> you don't think they ever went snorkeling? >> i don't. >> i don't. >> reporter: but there's another way to view all the red flags surrounding gary giordano. and you're about to hear it from his attorney who says gary giordano is an innocent man. coming up -- >> reporter: did your client kill robyn gardner?
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>> absolutely not. this was a drowning. >> reporter: but can he convince ou sor clvunasdeedsqe our unsolved case uasqd? on my phone, i got internet! hotspot five dollars. hey, hey, hey, he [ girl ] i can see who's on my network people! lance? lance? yes, yes. you are next. all right. dave, i'm in. ♪ ♪ katie! what are you doing, sweetheart? supplementing my allowance. how long have we been gone? [ male announcer ] get low prices on the latest smartphones. for a limited time, buy any smartphone and get a $100 walmart gift card. save money. live better. walmart. [ male announcer ] where's your road to happiness? what if the first step on that road is a bowl of soup? delicious campbell's soups fill you with vegetable nutrition farm-grown ingredients and can help you keep a healthy weight. campbell's -- it's amazing what soup can do. ♪ me and you, a holiday rendezvous ♪ ghirardelli squares peppermint bark. rich chocolate layers and festive peppermint. a ghirardelli original. ♪ a little reward for all the
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>> reporter: on the island of 3 f1 aruba, the tourists keep coming. headlines of a missing american never-ending sun and warm as bath water seas. robyn gardner's loved ones remained in limbo, not knowing what had happened to her. while gary giordano's legal limbo behind these prison walls was soon measured in months. but soon giordano had a compelling voice in his corner. >> he's innocent. this whole case has been one tremendous nightmare for him. >> reporter: jose baez, best known as the defense attorney who helped gain acquittal for accused killer casey anthony, is
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a member of giordano's legal team. did he kill robyn gardner? >> no. this was a drowning. she certainly would have appeared by now had the situation been otherwise. >> reporter: so the proof that there wasn't a crime is that there hasn't been a body? >> the proof that there wasn't a crime is the absence of any evidence to say otherwise. >> police detained her travel partner. >> sources say -- >> reporter: baez says news outlets from sensationalized the story and distorted facts to implicate gary in robyn's disappearance. he claims gary and robyn met on a website for swingers and had a casual relationship. and although aruban investigators say gary's version of events is filled with inconsistencies, baez says in more than a dozen statements to police the story has never changed. were there reports of a rough sea that day because i didn't see any. >> it can be flat one moment, then the wind can pick up and be
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rough and you have white caps and it can get violent out there. >> reporter: baez says his client was cooperative with aruban authorities, helping with the search, undergoing interview after interview. but what about that evidence of gary's troubled past with women? the two court orders of protection. one woman said gary told her the world would be better off without me and he could help. >> well, you know, there's no proof that ever occurred. so -- and if there was, certainly something would have come up from it. you don't know gary. >> because he's really just a pussycat, right? >> i think he's a very nice guy. yeah, i do. >> reporter: and in the end, baez says, this case really isn't about gary and robyn at all. it's about, he says, natalee holloway, who disappeared in 2005 and how aruban authorities failed to solve the case and never charged joran van der sloot. >> gary is not joran van der
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sloot and robyn gardner is not natalee holloway and gary should not have to pay for what law enforcement did here in another case. >> reporter: a passionate defense. how would it play to our unsolved case squad? from aruba, duane and yolanda return to the united states and meet with john luan. they brief the veteran prosecutor on what they learned on the island. >> when you start looking at each of the details and you look at them together, it goes from, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to, this is a pathetic bunch of lies. >> reporter: if this was a murder, what's the reason? >> money. >> money. >> if the motivation was to collect insurance money, it was one of the dumbest crimes that i've ever seen. this, to me, has more elements
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of a crime that happened, that he was not planning on committing, rather than a well thought-out plotted murder for money. >> reporter: so if gary giordano killed her, he's either unbelievably skilled or very lucky to have found a place to put her body where no one's been able to find it. because they've been looking pretty hard. >> as you well know as a high profile case in washington, d.c., where the police department searched a park. they knew what park to search and it took 53 weeks before the remains were found. >> of chandra levy. >> yes. >> and that park's a lot smaller than aruba. >> exactly. >> reporter: finally, dna tests have now confirmed that traces of blood found on a towel and a rock at the beach belong to robyn gardner. remember, right after robyn disappeared, gary giordano told police she'd cut her foot on a rock and bled. no surprise, it turns out, to our team.
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>> if her blood is on that rock, then a more reasonable answer is that the blood is on that rock for a reason that is much different than her cutting her foot, he knows that and he is trying to explain evidence before it materializes. >> you think her disappearance is a result of gary giordano's actions? >> it's hard to come up with another explanation other than a murder. >> reporter: but consider this. when our team was checking out the place where giordano says he and robin went into the water, duane stanton cut his foot on a sharp rock. could gary giordano be telling the truth? coming up -- >> the question is did he do something to robyn. is there any evidence that he did? >> reporter: an aruban judge rules there is not enough evidence and gary giordano walks free and walks into an interview with "dateline." >> i had already convinced myself that they were going to charge me.
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>> reporter: as aruba's endless summer stretched into the american autumn, questions in the mysterious disappearance of robyn gardner lingered like the afternoon sun. but if robyn garer is s dead, and if gary giordano had something to do with it, then what exactly happened? and why? it was time for our team to get
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face to face with giordano's attorney. joining us now is jose baez. >> good afternoon. >> reporter: have a seat. you wanted to come here and talk with the three of them. >> i did. you know, gary wants it known that he's innocent. coming here, we have no fear in that, because he is 100% innocent. >> reporter: john luan took the lead in questioning baez, a prosecutor questioning a defense attorney about robyn gardner's disappearance. >> you agree, mr. baez, she's missing because she's dead. >> absolutely. >> so no one's going to argue that she isn't dead. >> i don't think anyone has. the question is, did he do something to robyn. is there any evidence that he did. >> when you're saying there's no evidence, the circumstantial evidence in this case is overwhelming and i'd like you to give me another reasonable inference of all the circumstantial evidence in this case other than that your client is responsible for her death. >> i think the circumstantial evidence in this case is very underwhel manying.
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no one's got a picture of gary with a gun. no one's got a video of gary doing something illegal or inappropriate. >> what you appear to be saying is in a in order to make a case against them you'd like there to be video, eyewitnesses? mr. baez -- >> no, i'd like there to be evidence of a crime. certainly you would want evidence of a crime so you can go into court and prosecutor something. >> you keep kind of leaving out the main point in this case. the main point in this case. >> that there's no murder? >> well, main point in this case is, is that she allegedly drowned in a situation where we can't find any evidence she should have drowned, but more than that her body has never shown up. and i can tell you, we do circumstantial cases all the time with no physical evidence, and with no body. >> people drown all the time. all the time. we don't make up murder cases for them and thank goodness for that. >> when they drown we get their bodies back. >> let me go back to a point you made before interrupting me. they treated the situation as a
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simple missing person's case because that's what all of the evidence showed. this case took a turning point when people found out about the travel insurance. >> how did the information come out about the insurance? >> he volunteered it and it was based on his lawyer's advice that he file the claim. i understand you need to look at it. okay? but to say that that is proof and parcel of motive, gary was a successful businessman. he didn't need to kill someone for $1.5 million. >> reporter: you're more convinced a homicide was committed. >> i believe the evidence in this case suggested robyn gardner did not disappear while swimming. what i think 12 jurors would agree to is that his story doesn't work and he's responsible for her death. >> you could never, ever, ever take a case like this with this flimsy type of evidence, if you
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even want to call it that, and bring it to trial in a court here. >> reporter: and neither, at least for now, can prosecutors in aruba. last week, a judge ruled police have not found enough evidence to continue to hold giordano in prison. and this week, an appeals court agreed. solicitor general called it a setback but not the end. >> we want to make it clear that for us the case does not end here. mr. giordano will remain our prime suspect. >> reporter: late tuesday night, gary giordano and his legal team drove through the gates of kia prison where he'd spent the last four months. they went to a hotel where a noticeably thinner giordano, wearing a baseball cap, prepared to spend his last night on aruba in nearly four months. the next morning, giordano was on an airplane headed back to the united states and eventually
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arriving in new york. and walking into an interview with "dateline." coming up -- >> reporter: you know, you're being widely portrayed and regarded as someone who literally got away with murder. >> i am well aware of that. >> reporter: gary giordano becomes emotional as he tells his side of the story. and many coming up next friday on "dateline," after midnight -- >> she was my sister, my friend. i just want to know the truth. >> it's the mystery that's captivated the country, the disappearance of young mother susan powell. >> i've never hurt my wife. >> reporter: now two years after she vanished, "dateline" takes you inside the case. >> reporter: were you rattled? >> i'm pretty pissed off. >> reporter: as the husband at the center breaks his long silence. on that night when you went out to the desert, what happened to susan?
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[ male announcer ] get low prices on the gifts they love, like lg tvs with the latest technology. backed by our christmas price guarantee. save money. live better. walmart. >> reporter: gary giordano came to new york to answer questions
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about the woman who made him infamous. what happened to robyn gardner? >> i need some specific questions and i'll answer those. >> reporter: giordano seemed combative at times, exasperated with our questions. he said he hadn't slept in three days. we started at the beginning. why did you decide to drive so far from your hotel to go snorkeling when there were all these lovely beaches between your hotel and where you ended up? >> we went to the marriott beach, we occupied two chairs and met another couple who were telling us the finer places to go on the island and they mentioned baby beach. and encouraged us to go there. so that's where we went. >> reporter: baby beach is beautiful. the area where you went in the water is extremely rocky and seems kind of forbidding. i'm surprised anybody would go in the water there. >> that's your opinion and that's your opinion. >> reporter: why did you choose
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a secluded area? >> it wasn't secluded. it was 100 yards away from a scuba daving shop. that's not secluded. >> reporter: were there other people there? >> when we left the restaurant there were other people there. >> reporter: why couldn't police find a witness? >> you have to ask them that. >> reporter: he and robin can both be seen on this security video. while you were having lunch at one point you get out and go to the car and come back and you have something in a blue cup. what is that? >> it's just juice we had. >> reporter: juice, not alcohol? >> no. >> reporter: the two of you weren't consuming alcohol? >> we had a drink before we left to the hotel. >> reporter: why leave to the car when there's a bar and they have things there. >> i went to have a cigarette, actually. >> reporter: did you put something in robyn's drink? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: is that why you went out to the car? >> i said absolutely not. can it be any clearer than that? absolutely not. >> reporter: after lunch he says they lay in the sun.
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then got in the caribbean. friends of hers have suggested that robyn wasn't the kind of person to go snorkeling because she'd spent so much money on her hair extensions, she wouldn't want to risk that by getting in the water. >> we swam in the marriott pool the night before. my understanding was she told me that she was going to, when she returned, the day she returned, day or two before she returned she was going to get her hair redone. so what better time to go swimming is when you're going to get your hair extensions replaced. beautiful, right? >> reporter: for the first time on television, here's gary giordano's account of his last moments with robyn gardner. >> we drifted out and then i noticed that we were getting in deeper water. so i reached out to grab her leg, pulled her leg to signal going in, and as i turned, my shoes had become extremely heavy, as we were being pushed out by the wind and some current, and now i was struggling. so that's the last time i saw her.
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that's the last image i have of her. >> reporter: you at one point told police the water was rough. >> it was, and i told them that at a certain point i was struggling to get back. so you can determine what rough is, you know? there wasn't a tidal wave coming at me but i was struggling at one point, realized this is -- this is -- there's a problem here. >> reporter: could you touch the bottom? >> no. >> reporter: could you stand up? >> no. absolutely not. >> reporter: how do you explain police in their re-enactment saying they had someone your height go in the water where you told them you were and that person could touch the bottom? giordano let his attorney answer that question for him. >> that's in -- >> yeah, i think that's nonsense. you can't go back and re-enact something, especially when you've never been there. you weren't in that situation. >> reporter: and what about this situation? on the security tape, showing you after robyn disappeared at a time when you say you're looking
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for help you're banging on the door there, you don't look frantic, you don't look concerned. were you? >> yes. very much so. >> reporter: because it seems more sort of casual, you're banging on the wall there. >> i was -- it's hard to pick up on a tape that i was exhausted, scared and shocked that there was nobody there. there was nobody to jump up and down and say come help me. >> reporter: so that's you looking exhausted, scared and shocked. >> yeah. you don't know me. >> reporter: he spoke with police several times. giordano says they cleared him to leave the country and he went to the aruba airport. and at some point you had a conversation with a ticket agent who says, according to police, where's the woman you're traveling with, because they're looking at the trip record, and you say she's taking a later flight when in fact you knew she was missing. did that conversation happen? >> i don't -- i don't recall --
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i remember her saying apparent lip the book names come up and i do remember her asking if robyn was there. i don't remember the quote, but i certainly didn't want to get into the detailed conversation, i think the more important fact there is that they -- the police reported i was fleeing the country. i changed flights. i didn't change flights. they told me that the flight that i was scheduled on was canceled. when she mentioned robyn, all i know is i communicated to her she was not coming with me. >> reporter: you don't remember saying she'll take a later flight? >> i don't remember that quote. >> reporter: you probably wouldn't have been detained in this case if you hadn't taken out that insurance. >> i agree. >> reporter: why did you take out insurance on robyn? >> i took out insurance on myself and robyn. >> reporter: giordano says he's taken out travel insurance before and this time the coverage he chose online made it impossible for him to exclude robyn from the accidental death coverage.
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he says it was robyn's idea to make him her beneficiary. couldn't you have taken out insurance on yourself without taking out insurance on robyn gardner? >> i'm sure i could have done 15 different things but this is how it unfolded. >> reporter: now that your incarceration's over, do you expect to get that money? >> i haven't given that a thought. i haven't given that a positive thought. >> which means what? >> whenever i think about that it's dirty. as you pointed out, i would not have been arrested and detained for, you know, four months in a prison with murderers if in fact i didn't have that insurance. so to me it was -- it stole four months out of my life. >> reporter: did you ever think you were getting out of thereof? >> no. no. i -- when we went to -- when they asked for another extension for this month, i had already convinced myself that they were going to charge me and they were going to have to make amends for
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the holloway case and they were going to do it on me and -- and i would never -- see my kids again. and when she told me that there was no reason to detain me i fell apart. >> reporter: what do you want people to know about you? >> i want people to know i had nothing to do with anything to harm her or anybody in my life. >> reporter: because you know you're being widely portrayed and regarded as someone who literally got away with murder. >> i am well aware of that. and i think it's important to reiterate what you said, and i heard it from the detectives. the only reason why you're here is because of the insurance.
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so if you take out insurance and something happens to your loved ones, you're a murderer. for the rest of the world. i think that's ridiculous. and the holloway thing i think truly weighed heavily on that island. >> reporter: and with that the interview was over. investigations in two different countries continue. it's frustrating for the family of robyn gardner. after all this time, they say, the answer, like the woman they've been looking for since that first day, still can't be found. that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll be back again next friday at 10:00/9:00 central. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night. -- captions by vitac --


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